One of the greatest strengths of the early Silent Hill games - developed by internal Konami studio Team Silent - is their exceptional character design. The characters presented in these games are among the best in all of gaming history at illiciting emotional responses from the players - both positive and negative.
It all starts at the top, as the protagonists of all three games stand tall and proud as paragons of game character design. This blog will contain major plot spoilers for Silent Hill 1-3. Read at your own risk!
Having relatable and likable characters is essential to the success of just about any horror story (whether in the form of a book, movie, game, or any other medium). It's hard to feel afraid for a character that you just don't care for.
Harry Mason of Silent Hill is a great example of a relatable "Joe Everyman" protagonist. Harry is a simple writer trying to take his daughter on a vacation. He wrecks his car and wakes up to find his daughter is missing in a seemingly deserted and haunted town that is closed off from the outside world. Harry isn't a superhero or elite special forces operative. He's just a guy. He could be anybody. This makes him instantly relatable to an audience. [More]
Much ado has already been made about the re-recorded dialogue that is to be used in the Silent Hill HD Collection. Critics like myself have already been accused of being “haters” and “unwilling to accept change”. Fortunately (or is it unfortunately?), Konami has given “haters” like me plenty of reason to hate the Silent Hill HD Collection.
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I have extra copies of the original games. If you want to play them (and you know me personally), you can borrow them!
With the Silent Hill HD Collection being lambasted by fans and critics (my review now available here!), I thought I’d take a moment to discuss exactly why I feel it was so important for the original voice acting of the games (Silent Hill 2 specifically) to be retained. And it isn't just a matter of personal preference based on my familiarity with the original actors; although, that is definitely a contributing factor.
Critics tend to make a simple equivocation fallacy when describing the voice acting of Silent Hill as "awkward" and then calling it "bad". But "awkward" does not necessarily mean "bad". In fact, the awkward voice acting of Silent Hill 2 is actually a benefit to the game's narrative and mood. This is something that should be apparent to anybody who is actually paying attention to what's happening in the game.
Let us first take a step back and look at the design principles that went into Silent Hill 2.
James begins to doubt his own mental stability
Silent Hill 2 is a particular kind of horror game. It differs from other horror games at the time - such as Resident Evil and even its own predecessor Silent Hill - in that it is a very emotional brand of horror. The horror doesn't come so much from being "afraid", but rather, from being depressed, confused, and unsure of what is going on around you. Silent Hill 2 is a very dark and gloomy game, and definitely deserves its "M for Mature" rating with its story and themes alone. Team Silent accomplishes this by immersing the player in decrepit environments and introducing elements of surrealism to the game's reality. They then supplement this by slowing breaking down the foundational pillars of what the main character thinks is real, and then forcing the character and the player to wonder whether their own senses can be trusted. [More]
I didn’t have high hopes for Silent Hill Downpour. As such, I didn’t buy it new. I waited two weeks, bought it used off ebay, and finished it over a weekend. Sadly, pretty much all of my pre-release expectations turned out to be true.
Upon booting up the game, I was immediately given mixed opinions about the game. There was a mandatory install, which fortunately only took a few minutes, but which is always an annoying thing to sit through (except for Metal Gear Solid 4, which managed to make it somewhat amusing). After the install though, I was treated to a stylish title screen with new composer Daniel Licht’s enjoyable title track.
Then the game starts, and the very first thing you do as the new main character, prison inmate Murphy Pendleton, is murder a defenseless fellow inmate during a combat tutorial that takes place in the prison showers. Murphy clearly has some beef with this fellow inmate (named Napier), and it seems like Napier probably deserved it, but murdering a defenseless person in cold blood is hardly what I’d expect from a Silent Hill game.
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Konami recently released a new promotional video that supposedly showcases the improved visual quality of the HD remakes of Silent Hill 2 and 3.
Does the video make the HD versions look considerably clearer than the PS2 counterparts? I wouldn't blame you for saying "yes". But to the trained eye (and to experienced Silent Hill players), this video is a blatantly disingenuous attempt to make the PS2 versions look bad.
First of all, all the HD clips are shown with the film grain effects turned off and some of the fog effects disabled as well. This is a cheap trick on Konami's part, as these settings can be turned off in the original game, and doing so clears up the images considerably. The fact that Konami didn't even bother to compare the shots on an equal footing goes to show how far out of their way they are willing to go to make the original games look worse than they actually are. [More]